“How can I eat and sleep while away from the land of our forefathers.” So wrote the poet and philosopher Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi over 900 years ago.

Hearing the horror perpetrated on the innocent families in the south of Israel, I felt pangs of guilt as I sat to have my breakfast Monday morning. How can we live in peace when we think of these families who lost their children, or relatives of the babies of Kfar Aza? For most of us, the Holocaust and its horrors were a part of history. When we watched the gory pictures of naked victims being shot or children taken away in front of their parents, we were watching movies in black and white. Now these images in their fullest dread appear in our X (Twitter) accounts of today. The past is now. More than a thousand Jews killed in one day in conditions that shock the mind! Who could have thought it possible in our days? We never thought that the Holocaust ghost would surface in our times. That these ghastly acts were committed in the State of Israel, the very place we regard as the safest place for the Jewish people, only augments the pain.

We used to hear how the Nazi monsters had taught their hatred of Jews into the Arab leaders of the early Palestine days. Now, these disciples of evil have become the masters. The Germans tried to hide their pervert acts; these Arabs are proud to film and publicize their heinous deeds in social media. The actions of these monsters, calling them animals would be an insult to the animals, are so horrific that they do seem to come from a prehistoric period, not the 21st century. How much hatred must have been inculcated in the perpetrators that enabled them to do such barbaric deeds? Woe to us that these trials are happening in our generation!

Moreover, these incidents have encouraged more anti-Semitic feelings to come forth. The demonstrations supporting Hamas around the world and its chants of “Gas the Jews” recall the Teutonic screams at Kristallnacht. The latent loathing of Jews has been allowed to surface.

The world stands mostly silent in the face of these assaults on the Jewish people, as we see in the non-statements by the same CEOs, Hollywood celebrities, and academia people who rushed to condemn the George Floyd death or any injury to another minority. Echoes of the past, too.

Remembering all this may appear too harsh; we may want to put it past us. When Amalek came upon the Jewish people as they were leaving Egypt, the horror of their acts startled the nation, too. It would seem good to put it past us and forget about it. This is the sentiment that many would want to do today, as well. Yet, the Torah tells us, “Remember, do not forget.” Evil should not be forgotten because evil must be eradicated and not permitted to exist. Our longing for and love of peace moves us to cover up the reality of evil and prevents us from staging a war against it. Precisely because the Jews are particularly merciful and do not want to think of evil, that the Torah tells us “Remember!” Only when we remember these brutal doings, we will develop the will to confront them and erase them from the world. The very reign of Hashem will only be completed when Amalek is erased. Rashi says, Hashem swore that He will wage eternal war against Amalek because His throne is not complete so long as Amalek lives. The children of Amalek are screaming; we must not ignore their shouts.

The sad illusion of many idealists that peace was achievable with the Arabs, that a land for peace pact would achieve lasting peace, that the Arabs want to live in peace and thrive economically just as we do, has been shattered by the events of this week. While Israel allowed even Gazans to enter Israel, hoping that their improved economic situation would dissuade them from pursuing violence, exactly at the time that they were filling their pockets with moneys collected at Israeli sites and businesses, they were using their knowledge and their incomes to devise the most odious plan ever conceived by Man. The much-maligned Rabbi Meir Kahane Hy”d had predicted that the economic and educational improvement of the Arab population was not going to bring peace; it would only create more sophisticated and intelligent enemies. He was prescient on this, as we have seen now.

The past is now, but so is the present. We are not in a small village in Poland anymore, defenseless and without resources. We have a State, we have the resources, we have a renewed sense of Jewish identity, stronger than at any time before, and we are going to war against evil, wherever it is and however it appears. The Israeli army and technology were obviously not enough to protect us, as the failures of the material protectors have so sadly demonstrated. In addition to tanks and technology, we need a Higher Assistance. At moments like this, the words we must recite are “Ein Od MiLevado” (There is no other [help] outside of His) and this too is the achievement of the moment. No one knows the plans of the Creator or why these events have befallen; not all calamities come as punishment, but all come with a Plan and some may have more transcendental purposes.

A war is in front of us; to win this war we need to utilize the best means to achieve it. First, Jewish unity. The Rabbis tell us, “When Israel stands united, no nation or tongue can hurt them.” Sadly, this is precisely what we were missing before the attack. We need to come together to pray in large gatherings, in a minyan, to show Hashem that we stand together.

Second, we need to be loyal to our obligations as Jews; observe more diligently the mitzvot, especially Shabbat. To keep mitzvot with joy and enthusiasm is the way to be entitled to Hashem’s protection.

Third is the study of Torah. Dedicate special time to study. Read the Bible with commentaries, pick up a Mishnah, attend a Gemara shiur, listen to a class online.

The Chafetz Chaim taught that the first verses of the Torah are a great inspiration in times of darkness. The world was completely dark without even the faintest hint of light. And then came the Light. We cannot purge darkness with sticks and guns; to remove darkness we need to light a candle. In times of crisis, we must maintain the hope that Hashem can send a ray of light at any time. Whenever you feel depressed, it is because you have lost hope, when we say to ourselves, “there is no hope,” feeling that a bright future is not possible. When you see darkness, repeat the words of the Torah, Yehi Ohr (let there be light) and keep the light of hope aflame.

With our prayers and trust in Hashem, we will overwhelm those who dared question our rights to the ancestral Land and Israel will win. The past is on for a while, but the future is going to be forever.

By Rabbi David Algaze